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Route Planning

Old 01-19-16, 04:38 PM
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Route Planning

So I'm planning a trip from Erie, PA to Freehold, NJ this summer.

I don't like dirt road or non-paved bike routes which limits my options somewhat. I tried Google's bike directions and while the elevation profiles were nice, that went away when I avoided a 26 mile stretch of crushed limestone rails to trails. And I couldn't keep if off of dirt roads.

So I found a pretty reasonable compromise using the driving directions while avoiding highways. I used Google's cycling directions as a guide when I got closer to big cities to stick to the less traveled roads.

But as it stands, I ended up with about a 450 mile ride, but I'm getting some grades up to 14% (according to RideWithGPS). The steepest I've ever gone up is 11% and that's quite difficult for me.

I have a maximum of 7 days to complete this ride, preferably in 6 or 7. I'm trying to stay with WarmShowers hosts, which further limits my route options unless I just decide to forget that and camp.

Any route planning suggestions? Should I just suck it up and practice the steepest hills I can find? Forget about WarmShowers unless it fits the route?
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Old 01-19-16, 06:07 PM
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My experience has been that grades steeper than about 7% are usually not very long. I have just gotten off and pushed after running out of downhill momentum and up hill energy. Another strategy I've used is to get a lift from home to a spot that cuts the total mileage to a more managable number, like 50 to 60 miles/day, when time to finish is a determinant.

My touring bike is geared low, like 18 gear inches, which is a big help on the hills.
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Old 01-19-16, 06:10 PM
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I don't like dirt roads either, but I will ride the crushed limestone rail trails. I know I'm going to move slower, but those trails can be pleasant because they get you away from motor vehicle traffic so they are quiet, and they can take you scenic places. So I wouldn't necessarily avoid a 26 mile stretch of crushed limestone rails to trails ... that actually could be quite nice. I'd suggest riding some rail trails like that, with a loaded touring bicycle, in preparation for the tour so that you have more options.


As for grades, anything over 10% is a really steep hill for me ... especially with a loaded touring bicycle. If there's one hill like that in a day, and if it is not too long, I'll just resign myself to the fact that I'll probably walk up it. But if there are several and/or if they are long, I'll start looking for flatter ways around them. However, it is a good idea to practice on hills ... build up that leg strength. I'll also suggest climbing stairs as often as you can.
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Old 01-19-16, 07:27 PM
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I've been experimenting with the Strava Route Builder that uses a year of uploaded bike ride data to pick popular roads, instead of the obvious most direct route. It usually takes quieter side roads. It will likely need a GPS to navigate, since it often has a lot of turns.

See my writeup post here for more details, and why it's better than google maps for bike routing.

It's good for getting an idea of distances and climbing without having to navigate the whole route in detail. And it probably picks a better route than a manual method in unfamiliar areas.

That Erie PA to NJ distance is too far for the route builder, it gets stuck. But it can do it by clicking the start in Erie, clicking a waypoint or two along the way, then clicking the destination. Note -- it's been known to pick gravel roads sometimes. The best way to use this is to click on a desired overnight stop, and see how many miles that is. You can drag the waypoint or the route line to a new spot.

ridewithgps

I'd then remap the Strava routes into ridewithgps.com, one per day. As you know, it has good info on the climbs, by dragging the climb on the red elevation chart to show the average and max grade, height, and distance.

Ridewithgps can sometimes underestimate shorter, steeper climbs, and occasionally doesn't know that a road has been rebuilt to an easier grade.

The 14% grades on your routes might not be that steep, especially if there's quite shallow grades right nearby as you mouse over the climb: If it goes 6% 7% 6% 8% 3% 14% 4% 7% it may actually be all near 7 or 8%, for example. But if it's all steep for 200 feet or more of elevation, that would be a difficult climb.

~~~

A couple of quick selections just to get an idea of the trip:

1.
Here's the Strava route with an arbitrary waypoint near Williamsport PA: Test route One.
It's 472 miles, 23,000 feet of climbing. The elevation chart below the map looks difficult, but those hills are squashed into a narrow chart. And the big climbs, like at mile 30, are usually only 500 to 700 feet high. Still, they might be steep. Strava riders do big climbs more than a typical rider.

It's interesting that it heads 30 miles along Lake Erie before heading inland. Then at mile 157, its 75 miles of very slightly downhill riding (dropping maybe 15 feet per mile). And those tiny bumps on the flatter sections might be a lot of small rolling hills.

Scroll down below the map to see all the named climbing segments. There's a few that are averaging over 8% and close to 300 feet high. One of the steepest, Scotch Valley Drive, is listed 4 times, the same hill with slightly different start and end points. Strava usually uses elevation data from the first ride report, and it may be off quite a bit. But all 4 of these show sections around 14%. Steep!

472 miles in 6 days is about 80 miles per day.

2. Another try, with "minimize elevation" turned on, and the waypoints farther north, away from the mountains. test 2
This is 508 miles, 19,000 feet. Fewer hills, but still some fairly large climbs. You have to cross a mountain range to get to NJ, so climbing can't be avoided.

The climbing segments list has fewer steep climbs, and the steepest aren't very high.

508 miles in 6 days is 84 miles per day.

Last edited by rm -rf; 01-19-16 at 08:12 PM.
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Old 01-20-16, 06:46 AM
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Have you looked at Pennsylvania's signed bike routes? Route Y goes along the northern tier of PA. I have been planning to ride part of it during another cross-PA tour home to Philly and have mapped out a connector from Erie to Route Y.

Erie to Freehold in that time frame is going to be tough. Seems the toughest part would be finding an acceptable route across that part of NJ. Can you post a link to your route map? And I would skip WarmShowers or at least bring backup camping gear. What happens if someone has to cancel on you with short notice?
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Old 01-20-16, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Have you looked at Pennsylvania's signed bike routes? Route Y goes along the northern tier of PA. I have been planning to ride part of it during another cross-PA tour home to Philly and have mapped out a connector from Erie to Route Y.

Erie to Freehold in that time frame is going to be tough. Seems the toughest part would be finding an acceptable route across that part of NJ. Can you post a link to your route map? And I would skip WarmShowers or at least bring backup camping gear. What happens if someone has to cancel on you with short notice?
This is my tentative route.

Erie to Freehold - A bike ride in Millcreek Township, PA

I will have camping gear in the event that any accommodations fall through.

I looked at the signed routes, and they're not a whole lot better and add a lot of mileage.
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Old 01-20-16, 07:47 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I don't like dirt roads either, but I will ride the crushed limestone rail trails. I know I'm going to move slower, but those trails can be pleasant because they get you away from motor vehicle traffic so they are quiet, and they can take you scenic places. So I wouldn't necessarily avoid a 26 mile stretch of crushed limestone rails to trails
Unfortunately, the crushed limestone can turn into wet cement if we've had a lot of rain, and the timing of my trip isn't very flexible. This isn't really a tour so much as I set an arbitrary goal a few years ago to complete this before I was 40. Well.. that's this year.

As for practice on hills, I'll be riding a loop I have with a couple killer hills on it.. with a few gallons of water in my panniers.

I know this is an aggressive trip.. but it's what I have to work with. I'm not a stop to smell the roses kind of guy most of the time anyway.
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Old 01-20-16, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
I've been experimenting with the Strava Route Builder that uses a year of uploaded bike ride data to pick popular roads, instead of the obvious most direct route. It usually takes quieter side roads. It will likely need a GPS to navigate, since it often has a lot of turns.

See my writeup post here for more details, and why it's better than google maps for bike routing.
Thanks, I'll check that out.
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Old 01-20-16, 08:15 AM
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This is your trip and my preferences may be way different from yours, so take this for what it is worth...

Personally I find that too much planning and a rigid schedule sucks much of the joy out of a tour. As a result I don't find that staying with too many warmshowers hosts works out well for me and I therefore prefer to camp most of the time and book a room as a change of pace when/if I feel like it.

A more flexible schedule means you can go long on days when you feel like it and shorter on days when you don't. I find that liberating.

Hills...
If you aren't in shape for them, walking a hill isn't the end of the world. Even a long walk still leaves you enough time to make good progress the rest of the day.

Your mileage sounds doable, but in that part of the country will require being in pretty good shape. I find that for most tours it is reasonable to ride into shape on the tour, but your tour isn't long enough for that and some of the hardest terrain is probably fairly early in the trip.

Have a great trip.
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Old 01-20-16, 08:49 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Personally I find that too much planning and a rigid schedule sucks much of the joy out of a tour. As a result I don't find that staying with too many warmshowers hosts works out well for me and I therefore prefer to camp most of the time and book a room as a change of pace when/if I feel like it.

A more flexible schedule means you can go long on days when you feel like it and shorter on days when you don't. I find that liberating.

Hills...
If you aren't in shape for them, walking a hill isn't the end of the world. Even a long walk still leaves you enough time to make good progress the rest of the day.

Your mileage sounds doable, but in that part of the country will require being in pretty good shape. I find that for most tours it is reasonable to ride into shape on the tour, but your tour isn't long enough for that and some of the hardest terrain is probably fairly early in the trip.
Thanks. Yea, this is more about the destination than the trip.. not a typical tour. I'm riding to ride, not to see things. It's at the end of the summer, so hopefully plenty of time to get into shape... but yea, I'll walk a hill if I need to. I'll be ready to camp if need be.. something delays me or I make it farther than I plan to.
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Old 01-20-16, 08:55 AM
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Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
This is my tentative route.

Erie to Freehold - A bike ride in Millcreek Township, PA

I will have camping gear in the event that any accommodations fall through.

I looked at the signed routes, and they're not a whole lot better and add a lot of mileage.
A couple of things off the top of my head. 1. Your route has 54.2' of climbing per mile. That's not bad for crossing PA. 2. If you are going to go into Philipsburg, NJ you would be much better off riding south along the river to Lambertville and then cutting over. You can even take the D&R Feeder Canal Trail south from Frenchtown to L'Ville rather than riding on SR 29. From SR 122/S. Main in P'burg make a right at the light onto Carpentersville Rd. Bear right at High St., cross I-78 and stay on Carpentersville Rd all the way down to River Rd. Some climbing to get to River Rd., but it's not bad, and it's scenic. Once you get to River Rd. you simply follow the roads paralleling the river until you reach Milford. Extremely pretty back there. There is a Roebling-designed and built bridge connecting Riegelsville, NJ and Riegelsville, PA. If you need lunch cross over the bridge. There is a nice café right on the PA side. Not long after you get on CR 627, take the detour on Old River Rd. It avoids a small climb and is incredibly cute. Over all, there are only 2 mild climbs once you hit River Rd. until you get to Milford. if you need camping in the area, you can cross the bridge from Milford into PA, ride short distance down PA 32, make a right onto Canal Ln., walk your bike down to the canal path and ride about 1.25 miles south the first road crossing, which is Lodi Hill Rd. Make a right there and the driveway to Dogwood Haven Campground is right there. The owner is very nice and only changes cyclists $10/night. The place is a bit dated, but it will do for the night. Take site A. I strongly advise against riding PA 32. No shoulder and impatient drivers. From Milford, take Frenchtown Rd. (very gentle climb of only a few miles) to Frenchtown and pick up the trail along side the old train station (now a café) just before the bridge to PA. The trail has a nice surface and is even doable on 23c tires. I am very familiar with Hunterdon & Warren Counties. CR 579 out of Bloomsbury on your route is one of the steeper climbs in the entire state. It also have several other steep ups and downs and some fast traffic. The only redeeming thing about it is that is passes the site where Jack "Liver Eatin'" Johnson was born. He was the real life person upon whom the film "Jeremiah Johnson" was based.
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Old 01-20-16, 09:34 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
A couple of things off the top of my head. 1. Your route has 54.2' of climbing per mile. That's not bad for crossing PA.
Thanks, I had nothing to gauge this on. Most of my rides are local or I go into Ohio where it's flatter. Never had a reason to head East in PA.

Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
2. If you are going to go into Philipsburg, NJ you would be much better off riding south along the river to Lambertville and then cutting over.
What I didn't show on my map is that it was going by a WarmShowers host. But if I'll definitely keep this in mind if I decide to camp.

Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I strongly advise against riding PA 32.
Thanks for the advice. I don't see where I'm on this. Does it only apply if I go to Milford? I couldn't find it in my route, but I could be missing it.

Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
CR 579 out of Bloomsbury on your route is one of the steeper climbs in the entire state. It also have several other steep ups and downs and some fast traffic.
Any suggestions for an alternate route? Unfortunately the farther I get toward NJ, the less familiar I am with the territory.
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Old 01-20-16, 10:17 AM
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Yes. The PA 32 warning was only if you ride along the river towards L'Ville. The NJ side is much safer. I don't even like to ride the 3 or so miles from Dogwood Haven Campground to the next river crossing into Frenchtown. Even when traffic is light on PA 32 I always seem to get buzzed. I backtrack from there and cross back into Milford. Milford to Frenchtown can have some moderate traffic at times, but there is a decent enough shoulder. Not so on PA 32.

As for CR 579, there aren't many options if you want to go into the interior of that part. Any time you get away from the river in that area you are stuck with climbing. That's just the way Hunterdon County is.

I just noticed that your route has you going NE just to head back SE. I assume you did that to avoid some climbing. Here is a work in progress that I have been planning:

PA NORTHERN TIER-PINE CREEK - Union City, Penna

It uses some of Route Y. I only mapped as far as Dogwood Haven since I know the rest by heart.

Here is the portion from Erie to Route Y at Union City:

ERIE-UNION CITY - A bike ride in Erie County, Penna

The route uses the Pine Creek, Lehigh Gorge and part of the D&L trail system. (The Lehigh Gorge Trail is actually part of the D&L system.) I know you have reservations about riding on unpaved trails, but it might be useful to have something like this in your back pocket in case there has not been much rain. It certainly would eliminate a good deal of climbing and keep you off PA 115, which can be very busy in places. There is a decent amount of camping along the way. It probably doesn't fit with your WarmShowers plans, but again I am just throwing it out there as an option. Personally, I love to camp and cook, and if I am going to be carrying all that stuff I want to use it.
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Old 01-20-16, 10:29 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
I just noticed that your route has you going NE just to head back SE. I assume you did that to avoid some climbing. Here is a work in progress that I have been planning:
<snip>
The route uses the Pine Creek, Lehigh Gorge and part of the D&L trail system. (The Lehigh Gorge Trail is actually part of the D&L system.) I know you have reservations about riding on unpaved trails, but it might be useful to have something like this in your back pocket in case there has not been much rain. It certainly would eliminate a good deal of climbing and keep you off PA 115, which can be very busy in places. There is a decent amount of camping along the way. It probably doesn't fit with your WarmShowers plans, but again I am just throwing it out there as an option. Personally, I love to camp and cook, and if I am going to be carrying all that stuff I want to use it.
My route goes that way because I wanted to end up in Bradford, and I eliminated a steep climbs by going to Dunkirk first (IIRC). Besides, I kind of like that section of road to ride on.

I'm keeping that Lehigh Valley trail in mind if we don't have much rain, because it does look interesting and eliminates some climbs. I just don't want to rely on it.
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Old 01-20-16, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
So I'm planning a trip from Erie, PA to Freehold, NJ this summer.

I don't like dirt road or non-paved bike routes which limits my options somewhat. I tried Google's bike directions and while the elevation profiles were nice, that went away when I avoided a 26 mile stretch of crushed limestone rails to trails. And I couldn't keep if off of dirt roads.

So I found a pretty reasonable compromise using the driving directions while avoiding highways. I used Google's cycling directions as a guide when I got closer to big cities to stick to the less traveled roads.

But as it stands, I ended up with about a 450 mile ride, but I'm getting some grades up to 14% (according to RideWithGPS). The steepest I've ever gone up is 11% and that's quite difficult for me.

I have a maximum of 7 days to complete this ride, preferably in 6 or 7. I'm trying to stay with WarmShowers hosts, which further limits my route options unless I just decide to forget that and camp.

Any route planning suggestions? Should I just suck it up and practice the steepest hills I can find? Forget about WarmShowers unless it fits the route?
Are taken PA US Rt6 to NJ RT 206?
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Old 01-20-16, 11:53 AM
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Google Maps / Google Earth and similar apps are notorious inaccurate.
Closed roads, nonexistent roads, private roads. Not often, but often enough to cause headaches.

The Penna Bike routes are O.K. - but generally on roads with moderate to moderate+ traffic.
The Penna DOT has county road maps with traffic counts on their website.
You can find great, paved county roads this way.

https://www.penndot.gov/ProjectAndPro...x#.Vp_Je30rLnA

For ex. - Erie County -

https://www.dot7.state.pa.us/BPR_pdf_...ps/Erie_tv.pdf
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Old 01-20-16, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
You can find great, paved county roads this way.

https://www.penndot.gov/ProjectAndPro...x#.Vp_Je30rLnA

For ex. - Erie County -

https://www.dot7.state.pa.us/BPR_pdf_...ps/Erie_tv.pdf
That's nice. I'll have to take a look at that.
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Old 01-20-16, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Biketouringhobo View Post
Are taken PA US Rt6 to NJ RT 206?
This is my tentative route.
Erie to Freehold - A bike ride in Millcreek Township, PA

I looked at 206 and I thought it might be pretty busy. Are you familiar with that route?
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Old 01-20-16, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
This is my tentative route.
Erie to Freehold - A bike ride in Millcreek Township, PA

Have you 206 looked like it might be pretty busy. Are you familiar with that route?
I grew up NJ , PA and I use to ride RT206 in the 80's
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Old 01-20-16, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
This is my tentative route.
Erie to Freehold - A bike ride in Millcreek Township, PA

I looked at 206 and I thought it might be pretty busy. Are you familiar with that route?
U.S. 206 is very busy in a lot of places.
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Old 01-20-16, 12:49 PM
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OP, what kind of low gear do you have for hills? I'm more of a sit and spin kind of rider.
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Old 01-20-16, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
OP, what kind of low gear do you have for hills? I'm more of a sit and spin kind of rider.
I don't recall, but I'm a sit and spin rider too (no choice since I ride a recumbent) . It was the smallest chairing that would fit on the front. A cadence of 90 is right around 4 - 4.5 MPH.. any slower and balance becomes a problem anyway.

What needs work is my lung capacity... it gives out way before my legs ever do.

Last edited by chandltp; 01-20-16 at 01:04 PM.
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Old 01-20-16, 01:05 PM
  #23  
kennj123
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you can't beat stavas route builder with heatmap turned on. you don't need to follow it exactly when travelling but it nice knowing your on roads that other have determined are not suicidal.
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Old 01-20-16, 01:15 PM
  #24  
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I tried Strava's Route Planner for the first time and I'm not really taken by it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, location names are not very evident until you zoom in and then I was too zoomed-in to do a good job of planning the route. For example, Marten River Provincial Park, can't see it at all. Secondly, some roads appear not to be "plotted" at all: Sam Dam and Weyerhauser Roads aren't there.

I don't really understand this because I presumed that all mapping services (Google, Bing, Strava, etc.) don't collect their own data but get it from other sources and so why do Google and Bing maps show this park and these roads but not Strava?
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Old 01-20-16, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by kennj123 View Post
you can't beat stavas route builder with heatmap turned on.
So what do the colors mean? I can't find a legend anywhere, and New Jersey seems to be lit up almost entirely.

Although it looks like "use popularity" may prefer the most frequented routes for routing?
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